Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Interview with Girl Warrior Emily Braden.

Emily Braden.jpg

Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, powerhouse singer Emily Braden, the big, bad beauty from Boise. Winner of New York City’s prestigious “Best of the Best” Jazzmobile Vocal Competition, Braden’s signature sound is an effortless blend of jazz and soul. Her debut album Soul Walk is composed of high-energy originals and “flipped-out” jazz standards. Braden has performed at notable NYC venues such as the Blue Note Jazz Club (Late Night Groove Series), Birdland Jazz Club, le poisson rouge, BAMCafe and as well as on international festival circuits. East coast residencies include Richard Bona’s Club Bonafide and Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, the original home of bebop.  Braden has traveled to Burkina Faso, West Africa as part of the US Embassy’s Arts Envoy program.  She recently made her debut as a featured vocalist with Post Modern Jukebox. Her vocal versatility has earned her a place as a front woman with The Sketchy Orkestra, the Matt Parker Trio and Oliver Swain’s Big Machine. Her own group Double Bass, Double Voice released their debut album in the US and Japan in February 2017. See Braden live and she’ll make you a believer. This girl is smokin’, smokin’ hot.

What makes you a Girl Warrior? 

I’d say continually putting myself “out there” and actively designing my life qualifies me a Girl Warrior. My belief that all people (that would include all self-identified women and, hey now, that would have to include me!) are worthy of being seen, heard and loved motivates me to trust and follow my own vision. I want to live a big life. That, and my ability to see an opportunity for growth in everything, everywhere, all the time.

You have a big bold brilliant career. Was music always “it” for you?

I am first and foremost a music lover. I’ve been a singin’ fool ever since I can remember but I didn’t necessarily see it as my career path early on. I would sing along with, imitate and study the greats for the sheer joy of it. It was out of that practice that I developed a voice. It wasn’t until high school when I went for a solo and felt a beautiful force and energy come through me – it was powerful. In that moment I realized that I not only had a voice but also had something to say.

From Boise to Manhattan … how’d that come about? 

Boise, ID to Gresham, OR to Victoria, BC to Harlem USA.  I’ve recently begun to embrace my unconventional beginnings as a jazz singer. I used to wish my story made more sense – that I had grown up in a place where jazz, soul and gospel flowed like water, or that my hometown had a little more musical “clout.”  The truth is that my grandmother introduced me to some incredible music early on and I fell in love with it. I grabbed a hold, so to speak, and have since followed music wherever it has led me.  I had great mentors in both Oregon and British Columbia. I packed two suitcases and moved to New York City in 2009 because I knew I needed to be immersed in the music I loved in order to begin to reach the level of artistry to which I still aspire.

You’ve sung in some amazing places in the world. If you could go back to one of those places to do it all again, where would it be? Why? 



My wanderlust runs deep. I’m crossing my fingers that my dream of having a great career effortlessly marries my desire to see the world. So far, so good. I’m currently in Bangkok for a month of music at a jazz club here and I already want to come back! I came over two weeks early to travel on my own in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. There are so many places I have yet to see that I’m not sure I’d prioritize a trip back to anywhere over seeing someplace new. I loved Burkina Faso in West Africa, though I see myself visiting its musical neighbors, Mali and Ivory Coast, before returning. I also adored Cuba. I am bilingual and sing in Spanish as well so South America is also at the top of my list.

What has been your biggest challenge? 

It’s cliché but I have to constantly fight against my own self-doubt and work to expand my understanding of what self-love really looks like. There is an undercurrent of negative self-beliefs that I am forever examining and pushing back against – the belief that I am not good enough, talented enough, that I am an imposter or somehow unworthy of the incredible things that I have been able to experience. What a buzz kill, really. There are also the very real challenges of being a woman in the music industry and a fat one at that. I rely on friends and fellow women artists for support and have also found strength in the body-positive, fat-positive and queer communities.

What obstacles have you overcome and walls have you broken down? 

Moving to NYC within my twenties with no money and building a music career from the ground up!  Being fat has shown me walls and barriers invisible to many. It could be seen as an obstacle but I choose to embrace my embodiment. It is one small part of who I am. If my size and shape hinders me from getting an opportunity, that opportunity was superficial and wasn’t for me – just on principle.

What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?

Can I just hang out with her and shower her with buckets and buckets of validation? I would tell her that there is space in this world for her and for everything that she has to say and just – to go for it.

What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?  

I would do my best to communicate the idea that they are already in possession of everything they need to find joy and live the life of their dreams. That can be a tough one though – how much time do we have together?

Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why? 

I have role models and certainly look up to the vocal goddesses that have inspired the masses but I’m not so big on the idea of the “hero/ (s)hero.” I am in awe and fall into a kind of love with most people I meet.

What’s next? 

I am working on a new album and it’s been a long time coming. Hopefully a month alone with a piano in a hotel room in Bangkok will result in the completion of some of these song ideas that have been floating around.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

I have no idea and I feel great about that! One of most important things I’ve learned as an artist is to do the work and detach from the outcome. I say, “yes” to things even if (or especially if) they scare me.  I show up for opportunities and follow through. I create music.  What comes from that is not really for me to say.  At the same time, I am an avid daydreamer and carry within me an elaborate vision of what I want things to look like and how I want it to “feel.”  I do my best to nurture that and give it my focus. In five years, I’d like to be making music with a killing band in beautiful clubs, theaters and music festivals around the room.  And if I let myself be completely honest, I’d like to be playing Madison Square Garden.

 If a song were written about your life, what would it be called?

Maybe “Songbody.”

You can learn more about Emily @ www.emilybraden.com

Preview Soul Walk on iTunes @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/soul-walk/id336528400

Follow Emily on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/emilybraden/ and Instagram @ https://www.instagram.com/songbody/

 

 

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Every Girl Needs A Room Where She Can Dream

The Dreamer.

I have a room of my own.  Virginia Woolf would applaud this I’m sure. I’ve been blessed much of my adult life to have had such a space, a little sanctuary to call my own.  In this room, I get to be me.  Or at least the me, I imagine myself to be.  I’m a self-proclaimed dreamer.

Little back story.  Growing up I shared a bedroom with my older sister.  Not only did we share a room but much of the time we shared the same bed.  A double, which slept two rather comfortably.  Sometimes we were strange bedfellows but mostly we were amiable, considering our 8-year age difference.  The room we shared was downstairs next to our parents.  My two older brothers occupied one of the two upstairs bedrooms. The other room was our “spare” which was cold in winter but a fun place to play, and hang out with Ma while she sewed. By the time my sister moved to the West Coast and my two older brothers were both married, I had moved upstairs to their old room.  I finally had a room of my own. It was divine.

There were four things I especially liked about this room.  The slanted ceilings, the small attic door next to the closet, the brick chimney next to the door, and the wooden vent on the floor that you could peer down and see into the living room. There was something enthralling about these four details that captured my imagination.  I loved to poke around in the attic which was dark and musty and contained the usual things like Christmas ornaments, dance costumes, childhood artwork, old toys and a broken lamp or two.  But what was most beguiling was the possibility that buried deep within all this family memorabilia and junk was some mis-placed and forgotten treasure.  The vent was both scary and practical.  Scary because there was the possibility (although slim) of falling through it and practical because I could drop little notes down to Ma while she was sitting on the couch watching Ed Sullivan. I don’t recall what these messages to Ma said but most likely they were requests for food or drink.

Ma always made our home look lovely.  She didn’t have much to work with financially but what she lacked in cash, she made up for in imagination.  She just had a knack for this sort of thing and like most women of her time took care of “the decorating.”  I use this term loosely because no one spoke that way back then, at least not regular folks like Ma and The Old Man.  Decorating meant Ma made things for the house – curtains, table cloths, pillows.  She sewed and embroidered.  The furniture and appliances were bought on time at Sears or Eaton’s.  We weren’t poor but we were also a few miles from the middle of middle class.  Everyone in our neighborhood was, so it didn’t really matter.  At least not to me.

When it came to my room, Ma graciously handed over the decorating torch and without any strings attached either.  I was given free rein to do whatever my heart desired.  So I did.  I plastered the walls with rock posters and my kitschy-coo personal art.  The Old Man painted the chimney white which became the perfect blank canvas for my poetry, lyrics from folk musicians like Dylan and Leonard Cohen, pithy quotes by the pop psychologists of the day.  “If you love something set it free.  If it comes back, it yours.  If it doesn’t, it never was.”  I somehow found this to have deep meaning back then.  It just baffles me now.  Somehow we came into possession of an over-stuffed antique maroon velvet tub chair that had worn arms and smelled bad.  We put this in the corner for me to curl up in and read.  I had a desk that overlooked our driveway and stared directly into our neighbors upstairs window.  Thankfully they kept their curtains closed allowing us both the privacy we needed and me with the added blessing of natural light. I also had a record player, and by then a fairly decent collection of LPs which I played continuously.  Everything from The Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Dylan and Joan Baez.  From Rock to Folk, Motown to Blue Eyed Soul. This music comprised the soundtrack of my life.  It was the fire beneath my dreams and it fueled my creative passion.

It was in this little room at the top of a wartime house in the middle of small blue collar town where my dreaming wanderlust began.  I read books and dreamed of becoming a novelist.  I played rock music and dreamed of becoming a musician.  I made my own clothes and dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.  I scribbled poems on brick chimneys and dreamed of becoming a poet. I danced in my pajamas and dreamed of becoming a ballerina.  I doodled on albums and dreamed of becoming an artist. I gazed out at the stars and dreamed of flying.  I cuddled a dog named Sugar Miettinen and dreamed of becoming a mother. I had a typewriter and dreamed of using words to transform lives. I looked down at the street below and dreamed of a life outside of this room and wondered how I would get there.

And here I am.  Thousands of miles and many years away.  In this room, I write novels and blogs.  Play my guitar and write songs.  I sing to myself and dance like a wild woman. I gaze out the window at a sweet little pond and a garden full of Garry Oak trees, and I am in awe.  Full of wide-eye wonder and gratitude. I’m eternally grateful to Ma and The Old Man for giving me that first room and for allowing me a place to plant the very seeds that my dreams were made of.

Here in this room, I am becoming the woman of my dreams.